Atmospheric, almost dystopian sounds introduce Gold Coast post-hardcore outfit Napoleonic Wars’ debut record ‘Loop Train Line’. Based off the narrative themes of TV series Neon Genesis Evangelion, the group fuse “the mounting pressure of trauma projected upon innocent individuals forced to deal with a global existential threat” with their own affinity for complex math rock and post-hardcore elements. Topically appropriate for the current state of the world, the record could not come at a better (or, technically, worse) time. Much like Dance Gavin Dance if they were female fronted, the group name themselves “after the wars fought under Napoleon Bonaparte” as the chaos then reflects the chaos within their music. With a 4 year gap since the release of EP ‘You Disgust Me, But I Can Relate’ and a 3 year gap since their single Triple D_D-Dank, the group have knuckled down to reinvent themselves and their sound, while still keeping that chaos well and alive.
“I should not have come here” queries vocalist Sarah Schwenk (Lexi Quinn) over janky melodic guitars and a driving drum beat in GENESIS. As the instrumentation grows more frantic, so do her vocals, before Tiana Florea’s voice enters, softly singing “Why did you leave me?”. Sarah’s vocals distort under her as the franticness in her voice increases; “I’m so frightened. I’m so scared”. The tone of the track entirely changes as it comes to an end, growing more convoluted, heavier and darker before devolving into a simple finger-picked acoustic guitar. Wrrng Wrrng ties into the previous track, continuing the computerised sounds faintly playing at the song’s close, before delving into total darkness and chaos.
“Caught in a whirlpool of doubt. Are you brave enough to pull us out?” poses Tiana in the opening of Barriers. Sarah’s frantic vocals return again, as Shannon Kelly (Pending?) introduces and intricate bassline alongside founding member Jake Morton’s (Electrik Lemonade) complex and cymbal-heavy drums, aiding to the energy and anxiety present in the production. The warm tones of Toan Le-Vo’s (Electrik Lemonade) saxophone coo sweetly under her vocals. “My skin turned pale at the thought of losing you”. “Wake up” echoes Tiana’s vocals, crossing and convoluting before joining together in one beautiful harmony, emanating the confused feeling at the start of the day, to open Dilemma. Much softer than the rest of the record, it provides and introspective and emotive break at the album’s midway point. “This home wasn’t meant for you, I like it better in solitude” she sings as Toan’s saxophone plays a counter melody. “There’s no space here for you, there’s no space” she says before a quick-paced guitar solo takes the melodic forefront. Florea’s harmonies grow with the instrumentation as her vocal lines cross over each other, again creating that feeling of confusion. “Protection… Rejection…” screams Sarah subsequently. “I regret treating you that way”.
Atmospheric saxophone and cymbal swells introduce RAIN ESCAPE. The drums grow more complex and convoluted, changing the pace and tone of the song as gentle high-pitched synths are introduced. Sarah’s guitar plays a soft, almost isolated riff, before Tiana’s vocals return.
”Alarm bells ring as I beat on the door to your heart. Please rewind the tracks on this loop train line. I’ve gotta go back… how can I escape? Why do I deserve this?”
“Is this where I belong?” she poses over isolated and chaotic drums before the song gets itself back on track; “These images and horrors etched into my mind”. ZERO immediately demands the attention of the listener, as heavy guitars and drums play over distorted, almost screaming saxophone. The tone changes as the guitars are introduced as Tiana sings; “You are pathetically encumbered. Cowardice is only second best to the likeness of your father.” The melodies in this track are strong, and memorable, making it a standout on the record.
“Wake up another morning. Drop of the IV, refracts the waking lighting. Another unfamiliar ceiling, I see my life like I was only dreaming. She appears beside me again”.
Sings Sarah before the song changes entirely again, as screaming guitars are introduced, allowing the song to devolve into a forceful acoustic guitar and party-like vocals. “I am without purpose. No resolve to try. There’s no reason why you have to say goodbye”.
“I like this, this feeling.” Opens both vocalists in unison SWEET; “watch the world changing you for a moment”. The production approach is softer and gentler, emanating the romanticism of the lyrics. “If I could cast a spell, something to stop time, would you take a moment with me?” sings Sarah as Matt Sorenson’s (Mattsoro) keys take more of a forefront, decorating the instrumentation beautifully. Acapella-like vocals permeate surround the guitars, adding to the atmosphere and interest of the song’s production. Instrumentally and mainly guitar driven, the track further showcases the musicality of the group outside of the stories told throughout the narrative. “Will this angel heart satisfy you?” opens Tiana in the album’s single WOOKIE BLUNDERLAND. The quick and chaotic production returns, reminiscent of early 2000’s alternative rock. “I will possess your heart” Tiana sings as the instrumental slows. Toan’s saxophone plays as she sings “Another tale of unrequited love.”. The tone of the track shifts again to a more funk-like beat as Sarah’s guttural screams counter-act Tiana’s soft and gentle melody. KISS TO KILL TIME closes the record, with vocals seemingly recorded in a party setting, gives the song a humanised and grounding element within all the mania. “You help me value my life, you gave me reason to fight” sings Tiana before, unexpectedly Basil Kite’s Jack Tickner features for some spoken word.
“I would sacrifice it all for you. I’m sorry I don’t have time to kill. That was stolen from the two of us. An anniversary of memories I’ve turned to dust. The howling wind haunts me of the past and the pain between us has come to last. We will be together again”.
Drummer Jake Morton’s voice also features, saying:
“Didn’t understand- I didn’t know any better. I’m scared of who you were and what you are. I don’t want to forget you, but I can’t remember. I’m afraid my weakness wrought this wounded scar. Nothing can replace what was stolen from me. But I yearn to feel this emptiness lay like a memory. Is there hope or am I helpless? I’m no better than a coward.”
Jake’s screams permeate before Tiana’s vocals re-introduce, adding to the emotion of the track. “How can I make you feel for me?”.
‘Loop Train Line’ in its entirety is a collection of songs that are not only masterful in their musicality, but in their assessment of the human condition, its response to trauma and its relationships and reliance on other people. Only sitting at 10 tracks, the record is short yet is filled with so much to unpack and analyse, that it can not be fully appreciated in just one sit down listen. The album will be available on all streaming platforms on Friday December 4th and will be launched that same night at The Bearded Lady with Lexi Quinn and Pending?.
Event page HERE.
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